Beauty and the Blog

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper”

-W.B. Yeats

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Brandon, Alyssa, Dan

Although we awoke with ambitions of flying, the low cloud ceiling prohibited us from flying to Lemon Creek, so we had to reevaluate our field site locations. Dave D’Amore, a Research Soil Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Service, recommended  a plethora of sites scattered in and around Douglas Island. Prior to our excursion, Denice lectured us on the different types of wetlands we are interested in, and how to recognize them in a real world setting. The three types, a bog, a poor fen, and a rich fen, have not been studied in Alaska with respect to methane chambers before. Our first site of the day, Beauty and the Bog, was right outside the Eagle Crest Ski Resort.20160811_171345

Caption: Andrew and Alyssa walking carefully on the slippery wooden planks

Beauty and the Bog was child’s play in comparison to Cowee, where we were waist deep in water and our boots were close to being consumed by the vast ecosystem. We spent a great deal of time making sure we were in the ideal location, approximately one hundred meters from the path. The field site was particularly special because it was our first site in Alaska in which a sediment core was feasible. The Cowee site had too much standing water in order to take accurate measures. We set out to our second field site of the day, not realizing that an equipment mishap would bring us back sooner than we ever expected.

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Caption: Cecilia, Lydia, and Andrew during at one of the last field sites

Traveling a short distance down the road, we encountered Treadwell Trail, where dense bushwhacking separated us from the rich fen ahead. At the forefront of our group, a rustling bush halted them in their tracks. Frozen in horror, we awaited our fate as the creature emerged. To our surprise, our grizzly bear fears were replaced by a happy-go-lucky chocolate lab. Our newfound friend Grizzwald became the honorary thirteenth member of our expedition, swimming in the water and assessing the sturdiness of the trees trunks. The on-and-off rain attempted to dampen our spirits, but only dampened our already soggy boots. A few students slipped on the wooden planks, yet we powered through, hopped in our Toyota Siennas on North Douglas Highway, and encroached our final site of our CAUSE journey.

 

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Caption: Denice and Grizzwald the chocolate lab

As time progressed, we had to race against the clock to obtain the samples from our third field site, Outerpoint Bog. Unlike the previous two field sites, this bog was supported by rain water as opposed to ground or surface water. Seeing as this was our eighth field site sampled between Peru and Alaska, each team worked seamlessly to pull our last methane and groundwater samples. One team, consisting of Sara, Andy and Alyssa, described their last sample as a “sad but proud moment” when they all extracted their syringe of methane into the vial as one. As a grand finale, everyone gathered around the soil corer for our last core extraction. Collectively, we all felt an enormous sense of accomplishment as we each took a turn pressing the corer into the ground, knowing we were leaving our last field site with all of the data we set out for.

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Caption: CAUSE group leaving last field site, Outer Point Bog

To reward us for our valiant efforts, Denice offered to treat us to McDonald’s. Unfortunately, our celebration was cut short as a plaintive voice emerged from the back of the van. Alyssa’s heart sank to the bottom of the swamp, as she clenched Dan’s upper forearm in agony. Her videocamera, used for documenting our research, was accidentally left at the Beauty and the Bog field site. Dispersed into teams of two, we scavenged the landscape for the irreplaceable footage necessary for accurate documentation of our journey. Mike Nassry retrieved the rain-covered camcorder as the wave of relief fell over the group. We followed our initial plans and headed to McDonald’s, where Denice provided us with the sweet taste of victory infused in a M&M/Oreo/Reese’s McFlurry.

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